Post Tagged with: "Horry County Council"

County Government Year Ending with a Bang

December 5, 2018 5:25 AM
County Government Year Ending with a Bang

Normally local governments are in a holiday lull between Thanksgiving and the first few days of the New Year, but that has not been the case this year.

Last week’s fall budget retreat for Horry County Council saw lively, spirited debate on providing money for I-73 and the Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s (SWA) proposed new Solid Waste Management Plan. The debates among council members were only opening salvoes in what I predict will prove to be two high profile issues in the coming year.

The vote of county council members last week gave county staff the go ahead to enter into a contract with SCDOT to plan for expenditures on the I-73 route in Horry County. There is absolutely no justification to commit $25 million per year, bond that amount for 20 years for approximately $350 million in operating capital, only to construct a road that will end around Hwy 917 and the Marion County line.

Unless and until the state and federal governments are willing to commit serious money, at least a combined billion and a half dollars to I-73, it is not a serious project and we should not be wasting county money on a freeway to the rural hinterland.

After nearly 30 years of existence, it is time for the SWA to understand it was created to manage the disposal of the county’s solid waste in the most cost efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly manner.

This does not mean continued, mindless expansion of the Hwy 90 landfill in an environmentally sensitive area and at an ever increasing cost to county taxpayers.

The SWA was specifically charged in its establishment ordinance “to develop an acceptable alternative method of solid waste disposal and to reduce the tonnage of solid waste disposal in sanitary landfills due to the County’s high water table and other geologic characteristics that make utilization and expansion of existing landfills and the development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”

The proposed plan calls for continued horizontal and vertical expansion of the existing landfill footprint with spiraling costs. It is time for council to conduct its due diligence before voting on the proposed, new plan.

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The I-73 Rush Is On for County Tax Dollars

November 25, 2018 7:20 AM
The I-73 Rush Is On for County Tax Dollars

The Horry County Council Fall Planning Retreat scheduled for Wednesday November 28, 2018 has an interesting agenda item regarding I-73.

Innocuously called “A Resolution Authorizing the County Administrator to Execute a Funding Participation Agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation”, the agreement would provide DOT with Hospitality Fee revenue in an amount up to $25 million per year for things such as right of way purchases, engineering and construction on the proposed road.

While it is called a funding participation agreement, Section IV B of the agreement specifically states “SCDOT makes no financial commitment pursuant to this agreement.”

In other words, Horry County will be the only governmental agency providing funds for the I-73 project if this agreement is signed. Horry County officials often complain about being a “donor” county to the State Treasury. Yet, in this agreement, they would consent to sending even more county tax revenue to Columbia.

Proponents of this agreement have argued that I-73 is an important road to Horry County and that the Hospitality Fee revenue will only fund right of way purchases, engineering and construction for the Horry County section of the road, which ends in the vicinity of Hwy 917 at the Marion County line.

There is absolutely no economic benefit nor evacuation benefit Horry County citizens will receive from a road that ends in that rural section of Horry County.

Marion and Dillon counties, the other two counties in the Southern Corridor of the proposed I-73 to Interstate 95, are in no position to spend even one dollar of tax revenue toward the project. The only way construction of the road is going to be funded through those counties is with state and federal tax dollars.

Grand Strand Daily has spoken with legislators around the state over the past several months regarding funding for I-73 from Columbia. The only conclusion that can be drawn from these conversations is that the SC General Assembly has no plans to provide funding in the near term future for construction of I-73.

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County Council to Discuss Solid Waste Management Plan Revision

November 20, 2018 11:46 AM
County Council to Discuss Solid Waste Management Plan Revision

Horry County Council is scheduled to discuss the latest revision to the Horry County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) during its budget workshop next week.

According to information SWA Director Danny Knight provided to SWA board members recently, approximately 30 minutes has been scheduled for discussion of the SWMP and the county’s budget Fund 6 which provides revenue for the SWA convenience centers throughout the county.

The county’s SWMP needs approval from Horry County Council before it can be submitted to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The SWA initially requested approval during an October county council regular meeting and council Chairman Mark Lazarus scheduled discussion for the budget workshop to give council members time to study the over 500 page document.

This is a good first step. However, 15-30 minutes during the council workshop is probably not nearly enough time to dig into the details of the proposed SWMP and the inconsistencies that seem to be contained therein.

The SWMP is an important guidance document in that it outlines the plan the county has for the handling of solid waste for the next 20 years. Prior to requesting a permit from DHEC for change or expansion of services, that change or expansion must be included as part of the SWMP.

Included in the current SWMP revision is a large expansion of space for the burying of additional municipal solid waste (MSW) in future years.

This is being planned despite the fact that the SWA has never studied alternatives to burying more and more waste in Horry County as it was charged to do in the county ordinance 60-90 that established the SWA.

According to DHEC reports, there are nine county owned landfills in South Carolina. The SWA buries approximately 99% of the waste generated in Horry County in the SWA landfill on Hwy 90. The average amount of county generated waste buried in the other eight landfills owned by various counties in the state is 35%.

Other than its pride in being called “The Independent Republic”, why do Horry County solid waste management practices diverge so widely from what is considered sufficient in the rest of the state?

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Recent Storm Events Raise Concerns Among Citizens About Proposed Development in Tilly Swamp

November 12, 2018 7:41 AM
Recent Storm Events Raise Concerns Among Citizens About Proposed Development in Tilly Swamp

The flooding from Hurricane Florence has Horry County residents questioning the thought process behind continued rezoning development approvals by Horry County Council without consideration of the overall impact they will have on quality of life.

The latest ‘hot button’ issue is a proposed rezoning in the Tilly Swamp area that would allow approximately 1,500 new homes to be built on what are collectively known as the Bear properties, an area that is already strained for resources.

A new 900 unit RV park and an approximately 110 unit new housing development are already in the process of being developed in the area.

Access to the proposed development will be on small two-lane roads, Old Reaves Ferry Road and Old Hwy 90, off of the current Hwy 90.  Current police, fire and EMS services appear to be insufficient for the introduction of over 1,600 new homes and 900 RV units in the area.

Stormwater is another issue. Hurricane Florence saw homes in the area suffer flooding for the first time in history while roads in the area have been closed due to flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the recent Hurricane Florence.

One lifetime local resident said the Bear properties are sandy and act like a sponge to draw water in during heavy rain events. He said there is no telling what new flooding may occur in the area if it is paved over with impervious surfaces.

The area is designated ‘Scenic and Conservation’ in the current Horry County Comprehensive Plan Envision 2025 and the proposed new comprehensive plan Imagine 2040. Counties are required by state law to update comprehensive plans every 10 years. Those plans are adopted by county council with a three reading ordinance.

Comprehensive plans are meant to be a planning tool for county goods and services needed, not something adopted to satisfy the state and be ignored until the next one is due.

Both the Horry County Planning staff and Horry County Planning Commission have recommended disapproving the proposed rezoning of the Bear properties. However, it is up for second reading and public review at the regular meeting of council tomorrow night.

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Horry County Voters Send Message on Impact Fees, Representation to County Council

November 7, 2018 10:35 AM
Horry County Voters Send Message on Impact Fees, Representation to County Council

Horry County voters resoundingly supported the concept of having new construction pay for the improvements in county goods and services it requires on a referendum question Tuesday night.

Asked whether they supported imposing impact fees on new development, 74,904 voters out of the 103,186 answering the question, said YES.

The question was asked as an advisory referendum, which means it is non-binding and only an expression of voter will. However, when such an overwhelming majority of voters supports an issue, elected officials would do well to hear the message being sent.

State law currently includes language for imposing impact fees, but the legislation is so restrictive as to make it generally useless to a local government.

In the past, Horry County’s legislative delegation has been responsible for much of that language and has generally listened to the wishes of the real estate and development lobby at the expense of average citizens.

Many of these legislators have been given a ‘free pass’ in elections with little or no opposition to their holding office. It is time for that to change.

Results from Horry County Council contests in this election cycle provide an interesting view of what may be to come when solid challengers take on incumbents.

There were two contested Republican primaries with challenger Johnny Gardner defeating incumbent Mark Lazarus by 111 votes for the council chairman nomination. Gardner was unopposed in last night’s general election and will take office in January 2019.

Incumbent Bill Howard squeaked by challenger Dean Pappas by 33 votes in the other contested primary to barely hold onto his Council District Two seat.

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Tilly Swamp Rezoning Moves Back to Council with Disapproval Recommendation

November 5, 2018 4:34 AM
Tilly Swamp Rezoning Moves Back to Council with Disapproval Recommendation

The Horry County Planning Commission voted 4-3 last week to recommend disapproval of a proposal to rezone nearly 900 acres in the Tilly Swamp for residential development.

The Planning Commission joined the county’s planning staff in recommending disapproval of the rezoning.

A portion of the acreage is already zoned SF 10. The request is to rezone that portion and the portion currently zoned commercial forest agriculture to SF 7, a change that would allow a higher density of homes to be built on the properties allowing developers to make more money.

Residents showed up in force to express disapproval for the proposed rezoning. They expressed concerns about lack of infrastructure, police and fire services the area already experiences. An expansion of nearly 1,500 new homes would only exacerbate those problems.

The citizens’ comments were a factor in the disapproval. Another factor is the rezoning request runs counter to the county’s current comprehensive plan and the updated comprehensive plan in the process of being approved. Both plans list the area being considered for rezoning as ‘scenic and conservation.’

A county comprehensive plan is a requirement of state law. It must be updated every 10 years. The county is currently completing that update.

The comprehensive plan goes through a process of consultation with the planning staff, research into current conditions and public input, all of which is used to develop needs, goals and implementation strategies. The plan is then presented to the Planning Commission with another 30-day window for public input before it is completed.

It is sent to county council with a resolution for approval adopted by the Planning Commission. At the council level it is adopted by a three reading county ordinance making it county law.

The portion of the area in question already zoned for residential was rezoned prior to enactment of the current comprehensive plan.

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Proposed Tilly Swamp Rezoning Raises Questions

October 30, 2018 3:03 PM
Proposed Tilly Swamp Rezoning Raises Questions

A rezoning request in the Tilly Swamp community is raising questions about how Horry County officials approve development.

The rezoning request received first reading approval from Horry County Council at its last regular meeting before being sent to the Planning Commission and Infrastructure and Regulation Committee.

The request is from Bear Claw Associates, Bear Paw Associates and Bear Bone to allow for more houses to be built on two currently undeveloped lots owned by the named LLC’s. The request is to reduce lot size from SF 10 to SF 7 on previously rezoned land and to change zoning from Commercial Forest Agriculture (CFA) to SF 7 on land not included in the previous rezoning.

If the request is approved, approximately 1,500 new homes will be built in what is considered an environmentally sensitive area of Horry County, with the larger of the two lots adjacent on three sides to the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve.

The lots in question are in an area designated as scenic and conservation in the current Horry County Comprehensive Plan Envision 2025 and the proposed new comprehensive plan Imagine 2040.

According to S.C. Secretary of State records, the registered agent for the LLC’s is Keith Hinson owner of Waccamaw Land and Timber with the 4705 Oleander Drive, Myrtle Beach, SC address of Waccamaw Land and Timber as the registered address of the LLC’s. Hinson is a longtime friend, associate and business partner of outgoing Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.

According to longtime residents of the area near the requested rezoning, access to the proposed rezoning was cut off during the flooding from the recent Hurricane Florence. Additionally, the 2009 wildfire in the area burned 2,000 acres of the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve and threatened the land being considered for rezoning.

Fire and EMS services are listed as 3.99 miles away on the county Planning staff rezoning review sheet, but that appears to be inaccurate. The old Nixonville firehouse on Hwy 90 has always been a volunteer staffed unit with few, if any, volunteers left. Information provided to GSD said the building is currently used only for storage.

The closest fire stations for response to the proposed rezoning area now appear to be either Lees Landing or Wampee, both of which are approximately seven or more miles distant.

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Solid Waste Management Plan Approval Delayed

October 17, 2018 6:32 AM
Solid Waste Management Plan Approval Delayed

Horry County Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to defer consideration of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s (SWA) revised Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) until at least the November 28 council fall budget workshop.

The new SWMP includes plans for a further expansion of landfill capacity at the authority’s Hwy 90 landfill, apparently in contradiction of directions contained in the county Ordinance 60-90, which established the SWA in December 1990.

Ordinance 60-90 states there is a need to develop an acceptable alternative for solid waste disposal and to reduce the amount of tonnage disposed in sanitary landfills in Horry County. It further states the high water table and other geologic characteristics in Horry County “make utilization and expansion of the existing landfill and development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”

In the nearly 30 years since its creation, the SWA has consistently failed to seek alternatives for solid waste disposal and reduce the tonnage disposed in landfills in Horry County.

According to records from the S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there are nine counties in South Carolina with public landfills. Horry County disposes approximately 98% of the municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in the county into its Hwy 90 landfill. The remaining eight SC counties who own and operate landfills dispose an average of approximately 35% of the MSW generated in their respective counties into their publicly owned landfill with the remaining amount sent to private landfills for disposal.

What is cost effective and good enough for those other eight counties is, for some undefined reason, not good enough for Horry County. Why? The SWA board and staff should explain the reason in detail to county council.

Amelia Wood, a former liaison to the SWA board from a Hwy 90 citizens group, expressed several concerns with the revised plan. Wood said there was no sustainable funding source, other than tipping fees, to pay for waste diversion programs of the SWA. She pointed out the more diversion programs are successful, less money will be available to fund them because tipping fee revenue will be reduced.

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County Council Approves Buck Creek Development

October 3, 2018 8:19 AM
County Council Approves Buck Creek Development

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, Horry County Council passed third reading of a rezoning and development agreement that will allow nearly 1,300 homes to be built in the Buck Creek community.

The vote was 7-4 to approve the rezoning despite pleas from residents in nearby Arbor Glen to turn the development down.

The majority of council members who voted to approve the development rezoning got the cover they needed from county staff to attempt to justify their Yes vote.

The development meets county standards for stormwater management, which are based on 25 year flood projections for normal rainstorms, according to statements by staff. The standard of the 25 year flood is quite low, but meets state requirements.

There was much discussion that Hurricane Florence was a historic event, which is true. However, when taken into consideration with the flooding brought on in the state and local area by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999, we can say the flooding from Hurricane Florence was historic but should not have been a huge surprise.

These flooding events are becoming more common, but county officials are apparently satisfied that planning stormwater management for the 25 year flood is sufficient and anything beyond that can be attributed as God’s Will.

It was pointed out that the land for the specific development approved Tuesday did not flood from the effects of Hurricane Florence and one access road to the property remained open after the storm. However, no one really knows what will happen to the area and its access roads, or other areas and their access roads in the development pipeline, during similar storm events as those mentioned above when nature is replaced by the concrete and macadam associated with new sub-divisions.

Council member Paul Prince, in whose Council District 9 the new development will be built, proudly said he toured his district after the storm and the Longs community and the rest of the district fared well compared to other areas of the county.

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Hurricane Gone, Floods Receding, Back to Development as Usual

October 1, 2018 4:34 AM
Hurricane Gone, Floods Receding, Back to Development as Usual

Horry County Council will consider third reading of a rezoning Tuesday night that would allow development of an anticipated 1,292 residential units plus some commercial space in the area of Old Buck Creek Rd. and Hwy 905 in rural Horry County.

The picture accompanying this story shows Buck Creek flooding Hwy 905 just south of this proposed development. A short distance downstream from the proposed development is the Aberdeen development that suffered considerable flooding that flowed over SC 9 closing that road for over one week. Several miles down Hwy 905 is the Polo Farms development that seriously flooded from the storm and suffers flooding during hard rainstorms.

The question must be asked, is this the time to approve a development of nearly 1300 homes to an area that is prone to flooding. Even if the property itself doesn’t flood after it is developed, do we really want 1300 new homeowners essentially cut off from the rest of the county when the next flood occurs.

And it’s not a question of if another flood of this type of magnitude will occur, but when. I can quickly think of three times in the last 19 years that SC 9 and Hwy 905 by Buck Creek have been cut off by floodwaters.

The county only developed a stormwater management plan after suffering the effects of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It can be argued that county officials have been trying to catch up with controlling flooding and the effects of new development on various areas of the county ever since. Aberdeen, Polo Farms, Forestbrook and areas in Bucksport come quickly to mind.

Another consideration is the paucity of first responders in the area. The nearest fire station to this proposed development is an all-volunteer station with no career, full-time personnel attached. This area is part of the North Police Precinct, which is understaffed with a large area to patrol for those few officers available on each shift.

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